February 26, 2014 5:10 pm

Paris Fashion Week: New designers chase the dream

So to Paris, where gossip about the president’s love life has been replaced by talk of the frustrations of the younger generation, writes Vanessa Friedman. According to a report in Le Monde, a survey by France Télévisions of 210,000 people between the ages of 18 and 34 revealed significant levels of depression, and the conviction their lives would be worse than their parents’.

Yet, when it comes to fashion, the French capital remains a magnet for outsiders with dreams of dresses and success, if not for actual YFDs (young French designers). That is at least if the ready-to-wear schedule is anything to go by.

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Vanessa Friedman

The last leg of the four-city tour that is the woman’s autumn/winter collections, the Paris collections began with three new names to watch: Aganovich, designed by Serbian Nana Aganovich and Brit Brooke Taylor; Cédric Charlier, a Belgian backed by the Italian group AEFFE; and Yang Li, who is Chinese and was raised in Australia (as it happens, both he and Ms Aganovich went to Central St Martins).

All three are chasing what Dries Van Noten, another Belgian and the first big name to show, has got: a retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the fashion arm of the Louvre, and the ultimate establishment accolade.

As to why Mr Van Noten was chosen, the reason was obvious at his show yesterday. Entitled “Couturama”, but also part futurama, it mixed rubberised op-art prints (swirls and squares), enormous hibiscus florals, menswear tailoring and couture silhouettes – bias mid-calf skirts, blouson sleeves – in a stew of references, associations, silver and 1970s shades that combined and recombined in unpredictable, and surprisingly appealing, ways. Mr Van Noten has a unique ability to see the connections between seemingly disparate elements and use cloth to make them clear.

It made for a contrast with the newer group, all of whom are at that stage in their development where they are struggling to define their own signature, and to a certain extent all suffer from what might be called young designer disease: over-egging the concept.

Aganovich, for example, moved from generous swing coats cut in a half-moon curve to brocade-in-the-front-rough-hewn-at-the-back dresses; Mr Charlier undercut (pun intended) his way with a slouchy trouser by layering on some reptilian references; and Mr Li offered up terrific curving belted satin and wool jackets sliced with zips for a harder edge, best over skinny trousers – plus floor-length fur skirts and matching bustiers (very Wilma Flintstone) and some sleek cocktail dresses where it was hard to tell if the matching throw over the model’s arm was a coat or a side bustier. Hopefully, the answer is the former.

In any case, a different look provided another clue of sorts to the question of why fashion youth and French youth seem to be of such antipodal mindsets. That exit? A long loose culotte-cum-pleated skirt paired with a mink T-shirt that featured a single word: “Dreamer”.

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